FX’s Legion, which wrapped on Wednesday night, turned out to be one of the most provocative, puzzling, and compelling comic book adaptations to ever grace television. After watching the first season finale, it’s clear there is plenty more to ponder before the series returns for season 2.
Below, find several head-scratchers to puzzle over during the long wait for more episodes, along with a few theories about where the story, from Fargo mastermind Noah Hawley, can go next year.
As surprising as it seems, the first season made only oblique references to David’s (Dan Stevens) still-secret parentage. In “Chapter 7,” his sister, Amy (Katie Aselton), revealed that she remembered seeing “the man” on the night her family took in David — but that was the last we saw of her. In his lecture-room fantasy, David drew a bald cartoon to represent his father. Comic book readers can definitely spot the Charles Xavier effigy in the chalk drawing, but it remains to be seen if the character will be directly referenced.
Showrunner Hawley told TVLine that uttering the name of Professor X would require “a corporate conversation,” adding that he needed to think about having that talk very soon. But considering the show’s success with re-imagining characters like Rogue and Jaime Madrox — as Syd (Rachel Keller) and Cary/Kerry, respectively — there is always the possibility that the show’s portrayal of David’s birth family will also put a spin on his comic book origins.
That would seemingly make Oliver (Jemaine Clement) and Melanie (Jean Smart) likely candidates, except Farouk (a.k.a. the Shadow King a.k.a. Aubrey Plaza) never recognized them as such and was happy to use Oliver at the first opportunity.
Now that Amahl Farouk — the only other direct X-Men character besides David — is free, what is he after? In “Chapter 7,” he began to wonder where “it” is. And in the concluding moments of “Chapter 8,” Oliver asked him where to begin the search. Is this a simple revenge plot, as David’s deliberation in “Chapter 7” suggests? Or will Farouk’s thirst for power lead him elsewhere?
As the character of the Shadow King developed in the comics, he was revealed as an ancient entity of the astral plane that, over the centuries, would possess telepaths. He merged with Farouk in the early twentieth century and met Xavier sometime afterward. Xavier defeated him, but the encounter left the good-hearted telepath with the inspiration to start his school for young mutants. Farouk would eventually possess some of Xavier’s psychically inclined pupils before discovering David Haller. Even after David was able to escape his grasp, the Shadow King returned time and again to threaten Xavier or anyone he could find with telepathic abilities.
Of course, if the Shadow King of Legion is much older than the show is letting on, maybe Farouk’s aims are as simple as the ones Lenny has already voiced: survival and godhood. And yes, in the world of X-Men, apotheosis is a simple desire. It is just very hard to achieve.
Though the group’s conversation with Division 3 interrogator Clark (Hamish Linklater) suggested mutants are in hiding, Amy’s quick acceptance of David as a mutant in “Chapter 7” suggests the public is aware of homo superior. Considering how contained the story Legion has been so far, it is hard to say if this question will ever come into focus. But for Division 3, the war between humans and mutants is an inevitable outcome.
In the pages of X-Men, this tension has fueled decades of stories with groups like the Friends of Humanity and individuals like Bolivar Trask, Colonel Stryker, and Senator Kelly pledging their lives to stopping the spread of mutants. Division 3 itself seems to be an amalgam of some of these paramilitary groups and government entities engaged in a self-styled defense of mankind.
David’s repeated attempts to gain Clark’s trust in the finale suggested he has an interest in avoiding this conflict, speaking to Xavier’s dream of understanding and cooperation — even as D3 reacted with suspicion. Clark even expressed contempt until admitting to David that working together may be vital in the future. But that could easily have been a ruse so D3 could begin another offensive.
Now that David is free of Farouk — though imprisoned in a floating orb — will he be diagnosed with another persistent mental disorder? In the comics, David has been autistic, schizophrenic, and often presents symptoms of Dissociative Personality Disorder.
That last condition is, like David’s schizophrenia, a byproduct of one of his powers. He can literally trap the souls of those who die around him. It is why he is known as Legion in the comic books and seemingly the origin of the repeated shot in the series of people yelling at him. Perhaps some of these personas will emerge — maybe even the real Lenny.
In X-Men, the personas eventually grow strong enough to control specific aspects of David’s enormous power, leading to battles like the one in with the Shadow King inside David’s mind. For now, it stands to reason that Farouk will continue to be David’s principle antagonist, but perhaps another personality will emerge to show him new ways of using and controlling his abilities.
If Legion borrows one other thing from X-Men, it is the state of eternal crisis. And like so many Marvel projects, the show left us with a strong post-credits stinger scene. That image of David being teleported into an orb and screaming will leave us guessing for the next year. It could be one of Division 3’s gadgets, and it is very easy to see the second season starting with D3 drugging David up and telling him he is mentally unbalanced. Clark could even play at being his therapist.
But there could be other, unseen players at the controls. Representatives of David’s father could have access to the technology, which in its brief moments on screen shared kinship with Summerland’s strange mix of analog displays and future science.
A third organization would be a major expansion of the show’s fairly contained scope. Legion’s focus was squarely on David and his importance even as it offered subplots like Melanie’s wish to be reunited with Oliver and the discord between Cary and Kerry. As the show grows, it will need to better serve those characters. But even if the show remains focused on David, a new faction could play to a different facet of his personality — his thrill-seeking or addictive tendencies, perhaps?
Just before David was taken, he was able to ascertain that Oliver and Farouk were headed south. While certainly an element of season 2’s plot, it can also be taken as oblique reference to the show moving its production from Vancouver to Los Angeles next year. The change of venue will be significant as the visual style — one of Legion’s greatest strengths — was determined by its use of Vancouver’s nearby forest and the city’s army of well-trained technicians. For comparison, take a look at how The X-Files changed after its move to Los Angeles in its sixth season. The show lost some of its trademark de-saturation as the harsh California sun invaded the screen.
Of course, in giving up that Vancouver feel, the show will get the varied locations Southern California offers. From beaches to deserts to mountains, the world of Legion could expand well beyond the Kubrickesque environs of Summerland and the halls at Clockwork. The show managed to do great things in those confined spaces and could realize even stranger sights in its new home. With the second season reportedly expanding to 10 episodes, it could certainly do with a change of scenery more often.
Sadly, that probably means Summerland will be abandoned and that primitive MRI scanner will be left to rot out front.
Remember that brief moment when David was able to use the astral plane as a realm where he and Syd could touch each other? It feels like years ago. Peace is not something either character can find easily, but the second year could offer them at least a brief reprieve. Provided, of course, Syd manages to rescue him again.
Their relationship has shown to be as beneficial as it has been destructive. Lenny died because of it, and the Shadow King was able to use it to orchestrate his escape. But with stellar performers like Stevens and Keller, you want to see the two have a little more happiness even if it is under constant threat from a bodiless mutant with untold power.
Come to think of it, that might be the aspect of X-Men that Legion has adapted the most faithfully.
Watch the entire season of Legion on FXNOW